It’s as if they broke a rib in two. The bloody right side is trying to hold a reddish orange cross on it’s hand. The left side is facing the south; the tip of some part of the crescent looks up. The bottom of the rib divides the crescent in two. One side lives with 12 imams, the other follows Ebubekir’s path. The point where the rib separates is “Beit Beirut” with all its glory. The ruler of the separation point that divided the Lebanese Civil War.
The building was designed by Lebanese architect Youssef Aftimus in 1924. Until the Lebanese Civil War, the building continued to serve the legendary texture of Beirut as a structure hosting middle class families. However, what really happened, happened during the Lebanese Civil War… From then on “Beit Beirut” was in the hands of Christian snipers. As a result of the war’s destruction, the building rapidly changed from its old and glamorous structure; up until 1994. On this date, architect and activist Mona El Hallak began her works to save “Beit Beirut.” In the meantime, a company called “Solidere” which was run by Refik Hariri wanted to recreate Beirut’s buildings that were destroyed because of war. However this shattered soul did not come back to life because of “Solidere”. Mona El Hallak worked 15 years on the renovation and “Beit Beirut” was turned into a museum and cultural center.
As soon as you’re in Beirut, you can see how the city was ruined during the war. The sense of people’s fatigue from this 15 year old civil war, and as a result, the reflex to be tolerant toward each other is palpable at any part of the city. “Beit Beirut” does what it’s supposed to do; in the middle of the city it welcomes the visitors to make them forget the pain of war.
The immortal song “Le Beirut” by Fairuz and the film “Caramel” by Nadine Labaki which she adapted from plain narration, can be more than ideal to catch different perspectives on what this several thousand year old city reserves. Or the magical words of Amin Maalouf might pass on Beirut’s story to the next generations. Yet “Beit Beirut” fulfills its duty to stick back the broken rib. This building is ready to share hundred years of sadness, happiness, pain and sorrow of this city.
Fotoğraf / Photography: Barış Fert